Sunday, February 12, 2017

"On The Natural History of Destruction" by W.G. Sebald (Notting Hill Editions)

ISBN: 978-1-907903-55-7 Notting Hill Editions
As a writer, W.G. Sebald is a guy with a bow and arrow and can take on a difficult subject, and hit a bullseye every time. He had the talent to look at his subject matter apparently, like a surgeon going into the operation room to do a complicated procedure, but he always comes through in the end. Normally Sebald is a fictional writer but through the eyes of a subjective journalist. It's his skill in laying out the landscape in his novels, and especially in these two essays, one on the bombings of various German cities, and the other on a controversial German writer, Alfred Andersch.

The brilliance of his essay (speech) on the bombings in different German cities is that he doesn't play the victim's card. He looks at them for what they are. A destruction that killed and disrupted many lives, but in the shadow of Hitler's horrible vision of the world. Through Sebald's descriptive writing, one can almost taste the misery and the essence of the hopelessness of it all. Hitler's goal was to bomb London. He would go into detail about how the flames would eat up the English capital in horror overtures. The irony is that it happened to his own country. The vision he brought to the world, didn't exactly worked out for him (or Germany).

The Alfred Andersch essay is fascinating, due to how Sebald, a fellow German, see this individual within the Nazi/World War II environment. Andersch is a writer I know nothing of, till I read Sebald's piece. It seems in certain circles and through his writing, he was the good moral German during the Nazi years. Sebald feels differently. In a critical and almost cold-like manner, he cuts into the Andersch myth of the good Nazi. Reading it, I'm struck by how the individual deals with the issue of morality and identity in a landscape that is both dangerous and quite evil. I think we at this moment and time, feel the same regarding a certain individual in the White House. It's hard not to read this book and not think of the destruction in Palestine, Libya, and other parts of the world.

The Notting Hill Edition of "On The Natural History of Destruction" is a beautifully designed and elegant book. Which makes the book even more compelling in how this devastating text is placed in such a seductive packaging.

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